DAWSONVILLE, Ga. (AP) — Stuntwoman Natalie Govin found work easily in South Florida – until funds for the state’s film incentives program recently went dry.
With more movies such as the “Furious” series and “Need for Speed” filmed in Georgia, Govin didn’t want to get caught in Florida’s drought. So she moved north to the neighboring state like many of her stunt colleagues.
“It was like a mass exodus,” said Govin, who’s been a stunt double on several films and TV shows including HBO’s “Ballers” and “Rock of Ages.” ”We had a very large community in south Florida, but things tapered off. So I had to move to Atlanta. I have to pay the bills.”
But without work lined up since arriving in Georgia, Govin decided to sharpen her skills as a stunt driver. That decision is what brought her to Hollywood stunt driver Bobby Ore’s school – Bobby Ore Motorsports – in the northern Georgia town of Dawsonville.
In Georgia, the television and film industry had an economic impact of $6 billion during the 2015 fiscal year with 248 productions filmed in the state, according to Gov. Nathan Deal. The state’s tax incentives have no cap. In Florida, six the $296 million in allowable tax credits allocated through July 2016 were used up by 2014.
The school, which opened in May, aims to train aspiring stunt drivers who want to break into the state’s flourishing film business. The school trains not only stunt drivers, military personnel, law enforcement officers but also members of the public who qualify.
Ore founded the Motion Picture Driving School in 1996 after the constant demand for professional stunt driving training from the Screen Actors Guild. He said it was a “no brainer” businesswise to bring his school to Georgia after Atlanta Motorsports Park officials asked him to hold training sessions there once a month.
Ore said he recognized a significant shift in more films and television shows being brought to Georgia a couple years ago.
“This is a hotspot,” said Ore, a former marine who specializes in vehicle dynamics and physics and has more than 40 years of experience in the film industry. His driving credits include “Being John Malkovich,” ”Liar Liar,” ”Gone in Sixty Seconds,” ”Seabiscuit” and “Three Kings.”
The school also holds classes at training facilities in Florida and California.
“There are a lot of stunt people moving to Atlanta and Georgia because of all the film business going on here,” he said. “We want to give people a chance to take the school and help give people the basic foundation to become a stunt driver.”
The excitement of working in Hollywood is not the only lure. Stunt performers can make between $3,200 and $3,400 per week, according to the Screen Actors Guild’s theatrical wage table.
Students can learn the craft of pulling off stunts from 90-degree slides and 180-degree turns on mark along with learning how to parallel park while driving 80-miles per hour. They can also ride with Ore while he performs his trademark stunt of driving a car on two wheels.
For military and law enforcement personnel, courses such as counter-terrorist driver training and high speed reverse driving are offered.
Duke Jackson, a 20-year veteran stuntman who is now training for the first time as a stunt driver with Ore, has worked on numerous films and TV shows from “The Divergent Series: Allegiant,” ”Captain America: Civil War” and “The Walking Dead” since moving from Los Angeles to Atlanta a few years ago.
“It’s harder than it really looks,” Jackson said.